I’m lucky that I haven’t had to be glued to my laptop screen as others have during the last few months, but still I can’t help noticing the way that everyday communication is changing. Without the ability to meet in person, technology is bridging the gap between old and new normal. Whereas a video chat used to be a monthly check-in to appease the parents, or a 6-monthly event with an old friend perhaps, now if a day goes by without using my smartphone’s video chat feature, it’s a strange one. And that’s changing things.
A group chat with old university friends that used to require a few week’s coordination, now happens overnight. Colleague living in a different time-zone? No worries! I find myself receiving more calendar notifications than old school text messages these days, and that’s changing things. It’s profound for me because I spent a lot of years building short term connections with people, and having them fall away. I travelled a lot and crossed paths with many wonderful and interesting characters, but never for very long. And that was fine, but now that I’m more stationary than ever, I find myself investing time in keeping old connections alive; keeping that pulse going. It’s a small thing to dedicate oneself to, really, but I realised only once my ability to create new social connections was curtailed did I start to appreciate the ones I already had.
The value of these living networks is impossible to estimate. I always found it so liberating for each connection I made to be fresh and new, ripe with possibility and free of any baggage whatsoever. But now I see their limitations, and that the true infinite possibility lies in the cradle of long term connections, nurtured and developed over time, with foundations of support, understanding, and perhaps even a little shared endeavour.
But that’s just community, isn’t it. In these times where physical interaction is so heavily policed, there has been such danger of losing community, but it hasn’t happened. We’ve found new ways to support each other, from the most vulnerable, so a simple video chat with your Gran at the weekend. For sure I’m concerned that it’s desensitising; certainly, it’s disturbing to me, watching old TV shows and instinctively thinking “Oh God! They’re not social distancing!”. The world’s changing, but if there’s one thing we humans are good at, it’s adapting to change. And the human spirit won’t be suppressed.
In fact, I think more than “bridging the gap,” technology is busily sketching the blueprint for how the future will look. For now, that means keeping connections alive, keeping communities supportive and vibrant, and maybe even breathing life into a few relationships that have been all but forgotten.
A while ago we have asked for your thoughts on the prospect of developing our very own online virtual space.
Over the last few months, the EuroPeers UK team has been working on a new level of innovation that aims to generate a different kind of online presence for young people. In partnership with Momentum World and Chesterfield College, a new 360 virtual space is being developed.
The virtual space will be accessed via a web browser meaning no special equipment is needed. Using a mouse and keyboard you will be able to navigate through various rooms exploring different aspects of EuroPeers UK.
The different rooms we hope to include are: The main foyer The International room The EuroPeers cinema space The EuroPeers library The Communication room The Newsroom Then there will be a portal to the ‘contact us’ and the ‘get involved’ room.
Project Manager Paul Oxborough shared:
“We are trying to redefine how young people access information online – most people have been ‘zoomed’ to death throughout 2020 so we have to look at new creative ways to re-engage them. By working with Chesterfield College it means the students can take on meaningful work experience with us as a client and develop a product they can add to their portfolios. This will help when they go for future jobs”.
Watch this space, we will do another feature in the next newsletter.
This new Eurodesk UK publication showcases 30 original stories covering young people’s experiences and the work of the youth sector.
Eurodesk’s mission is to help young people experience the world. Engaging and inspiring young people – and those who work with them in the youth sector – is key to this. At Eurodesk UK we love sharing their travels, projects, thoughts, and views on our website and social media, and now in our new publication ‘Eurodesk: a snapshot in 30 stories’.
The range of experiences covers six topic areas: Have Your Say, Study, Travel, Volunteer, Work, and Youth Work. From volunteering placements to studying for a semester abroad, everyone has a unique experience and a story to tell, not only on what they did but how it affected them personally.
The publication is interactive so you can navigate between different stories and explore them at your own pace, selecting preferred topics and/or specific stories. It is also accessible for text readers.
Activities during the “Water for Life” Project in Passignano sul Trasimeno, Umbria, Italy.
In 2015, the World Economic Forum declared the water crises to be the top global risk facing the planet over the next decade. At the same time, the global leaders at the UN agreed that one of the Sustainable Development Goals as part of the 2030 agenda. It is to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water for all.
With water being at the core of sustainable development, the organisers from Associazione Kora on the La Buona Terra farm in Umbria developed a project called “Water for Life”, which aimed to educate youth about sustainable water management practices and the importance of individual choices. One of the first activities that I took part in as part of this project was delivering a presentation on a selected topic related to water. I designed and delivered a ten-minute presentation in front of 20+ international volunteers about the topic of mechanical pumps and how they could be applied in the context of La Buona Terra farm, as well as listened to the presentations of other volunteers and proactively asked questions. I enjoyed this experience as it allowed me to use my skills in delivering presentations and test my prior knowledge of water and sustainable development, which I studied at university.
Presenting in front of other people allowed me to test my communication skills and boosted my confidence in public speaking. I also felt this workshop provided me with an opportunity to present and explore ideas and learn more about an important topic in a safe space. One of the themes that was heavily explored in the workshop was rainwater harvesting, one of the most sustainable sources of water supply. To put the knowledge into practice, I took part in the digging of water channels on the steep hills of the farmland. The goal was to create channels that would collect rainwater and let it flow until it reaches an artificially created pond, from which the water can be utilised for irrigation purposes. Initially, I feared this experience would involve long hours of heavy physical work, however, this was not the case, as the working hours were split constructively throughout the week and each volunteer took turns in performing tasks of various physical difficulty, for example, some people were working hard with the shovel, while others were building a wall out of stones to keep the structure of the water channels and prevent the water from overflowing. I noted how quickly volunteers realised the importance of teamwork and mutual support in boosting our performance and performing the task effectively. I felt that this task allowed for a healthy competition environment where volunteers could work hard albeit with respect to the efforts and abilities of other teammates. I was impressed by what we have accomplished in a short period.
Another activity that I was actively involved in during the project was olive picking. The farm has ≈1500 trees on its land, each with its unique shape and character. Some of the trees were as old as 1000+ years. It was just the start of the olive harvesting season and the colours of the olives ranged from bright green to fading purple. I experienced and witnessed the whole process of olive collection and the production of extra virgin olive oil, in a strikingly green colour yet rich and delicious in taste.
I have never thought about how many people it takes to pick the olive tree prior to this experience, but I am confident to admit that it is not a single man’s work. What I appreciated the most about this experience is the harmonious teamwork that developed organically throughout the olive harvesting process. While some volunteers were using electric machines to pick the olives or brushing off the olives from the branches using the rake, others were moving boxes full of harvested olives up the steep hill towards the machine which others used for separating the olives from the twigs. I noted how helping others brought me instant gratification as well as how I became more empathetic to others by appreciating their situation and capabilities at a given time. As the olive harvesting process involved fun and silly games in the form of throwing olives at each other, I also noticed how this activity strengthened relationships between the volunteers.
The main lesson learnt: do not try eating olives straight from the trees and do not trust others when they say that this time they are ripe – you are guaranteed an intense taste of bitterness in your mouth.
Among other activities that I was involved in on the farm were woodworks, painting, gardening, and picking of fruits and nuts. All these activities involved active collaboration with others, which encouraged group cohesiveness. I found that almost all activities put me in a relaxed and meditative space while at the same time nurtured my creativity and enhanced concentration and focus. Enjoying quiet moments and focusing on completing small tasks throughout the day allowed me to cultivate mindfulness and patience. That was particularly important in woodworks, which taught me how to use new tools. By working in the gardens, I restored my knowledge in organic farming, learnt new plant growing methods and techniques for managing weeds and insect pests. I realised that weeds and insects are vital components of the farmland and they allowed me to learn about a way of working with natural systems.
The diversity of activities on the farm allowed volunteers to get to know each other better. This was particularly supported by the organisation of regular passion nights where volunteers and organisers shared one random hobby or interest that they feel particularly passionate about. For instance, we had sessions on LGBT, women’s rights, beatboxing, and living on alternative meals, such as food powder. I realised that exploring common interests helped create bonds between the participants. Another activity that allowed me to build connections with others was cooking regular meals, including using farm produce and cooking traditional dishes from each volunteer’s country. This activity allowed me to experience international cuisine in-depth, learn new dishes, and appreciate other volunteers’ understanding of their own culture and traditions.
I also took part in the creation of digital materials, such as two videos and the volunteer’s cookbook, for which I practiced my creativity and design skills. One of the videos was live-streamed on Facebook during the Erasmus+ day. I took part in the preparation of the setting and gave an interview live in front of the camera. For the second video, I had to record my voice. This experience boosted my confidence in communicating and presenting myself in front of the camera. I learnt the best practice for recording the audio and the best tools for engaging with the audience in the volunteering sector. Thanks to designing the cookbook, I practiced my software skills in Excel and the graphic design platform, Canva.
My past experience of volunteering abroad made me feel comfortable when meeting and communicating with new people from different countries. I managed to use my previous knowledge in bringing people together and managing misunderstandings to introduce bonding activities and foster a friendly group dynamic, for example, through drawing, singing, and doing yoga. Although this was far from my first experience living and working with international people, speaking with people whose English is not their main language always presents a little challenge, as I have to adapt my way of speaking to different kinds of situations. I had to learn about other people’s levels of English and their pace of understanding of language to communicate with them more clearly and concisely. In the process, I experimented with using appropriate syntax in English and learnt how to communicate with people from all over the world more effectively. This experience has enhanced my skills in adapting to new cultural and language situations. I also learnt new words and expressions from different languages and managed to establish similarities of other languages with my mother tongue. As I learnt French at school, I tried to communicate with people from France in their native language and saw an improvement in my French language skills. This inspired me to continue learning the language, and I am now determined to practice it in the professional work environment and perfect it.
As the project ran amid the COVID-19 pandemic, I had to take extra precautions and adhere to country and project-specific rules and gained awareness about our responsibility as a group towards the pandemic. Living and volunteering on the remote farm in a community setting and working every day outdoors in fresh air allowed me to rest from a hectic life back in London and reconnect with nature in a meaningful way. The location of the farm is in a magnificent place surrounded by lush hills full of diverse trees and plants and a charming lake. Having an opportunity to hike, rest in hammocks, and enjoy spectacular sunsets reminded me regularly to be grateful and not to take this experience for granted. I feel that this experience allowed me to cultivate simplicity, which expressed itself in recognition of inner beauty in others and appreciating the small things.
Overall, I learnt a great deal about sustainable farming practices, and I believe this knowledge is invaluable for my future career, as I aspire to work for an organisation that focuses on building a sustainable future. I saw a significant improvement in my physical and mental wellbeing, and I am looking forward to utilising the acquired skills, knowledge, and energy in my future endeavours.
Hands down, I’ve been feeling all radical and awkward in my bones, but only for the last 25 years. So that’s quite alright. This virus has affected me in ways that have not been too bad. I’m in my homeland as a foreign participant. That’s oxymorous and thrilling. I’m surrounded by graduates of mental health degrees; that’s handy.
And I am way calm. I feel way British. I’m yawning a whole lot. Almost as much as I’m working; I’m working as much as one would be when premiering a community-building program in autumn 2020. Are you seeing me yet? And writing this is as hard as catching someone up in the middle of the show. And I guess as constructive. Settling in took about a week. At the end of this everyone knows each other by name, starting to suss out personalities. Forming alliances. Choosing docks and quarters. ‘Fitting in’
A general confusion, some vague answers, a definite direction, loose responsibilities. Work with the community was possible for the next week. We designed outdoor informal learning activities for groups of adults with mental health challenges. We did this for four full working days with an elevating sense of success before the Greek lockdown changed our plans for us.
Enter mild chaos. Our mentors from ROES Cooperativa took us off to Argolida for five days of intensive training, aiming at amplifying our community spirit. Good work there, the focus shift got there just in time; you know, ‘don’t fret dear. Just do things for yourself.’ Yourselves. Week four: So How Do You Feel About That Dynamic? I feel like watching good movies, counting my blessings, writing up my projects, and checking my influences.
Like allowing foreign influences, casually studying languages, and humming songs under my breath. Like appreciating people’s efforts, no matter how small and like celebrating small victories in a fitting manner. Does it sound boring? Man, you should see my dreams.
When in Paris, do as the Parisians do… up to a point
During my third year at university in England, I did a work placement in Paris with Erasmus+. It feels like a lifetime ago; however, when I think back on my university years, it has increasingly become the highlight that I remember first. “Time flies when you’re having fun” is all too true for most Erasmus+ students. So much so that you end up not wanting to come back for your final year of studies.
When you embark on such an experience, it is natural to feel nervous and excited about living and working abroad. You can prepare yourself before your arrival, e.g. by finding accommodation, by mapping your future route to work and to the bank. But there is only so much you can do beforehand; you must be ready to face the unexpected. In my first week in Paris, I found myself in the city centre late with a friend at night, not realising how early the last metros stopped and panic-calling terribly busy taxi services. It was an expensive ride home… But a lesson learned.
While you can never discover all that a city has to offer, sightseeing days are rarely dull, especially in and around Paris: getting lost up the Notre-Dame Cathedral, drinking cheap beers in the Quartier Latin, eating pizzas near the Hotel de Ville, eating snails near the Arc de Triomphe, drinking wine and listening to music on the steps of Montmartre, admiring Versailles’ symmetry, being overwhelmed by the sheer number of religious buildings in the city of one hundred steeples (aka Rouen).
Doing a work placement also comes with its own perks, such as events and team building away-days in fancy hotels on the Champs-Elysées and near the Eiffel Tower, as well as longer important seminars in Chantilly, Royaumont and Compiègne.
Going abroad to work on an Erasmus traineeship is a great way to develop as a person, gain life experience and essential skills, and broaden your mind. You experience a truly international and multicultural environment where you meet new people, new places, and new cultures. I have fond memories, both funny and embarrassing, of my year abroad.
In front of the Notre-Dame Cathedral there is a bronze plate with the words “Point zéro des routes de France” which translates to “Point zero of the roads of France”. In other words, it is the point from which all other distances in France are measured. Rumour has it, if you stand on the Point Zéro, you will someday return to Paris. And I did, for another internship three years later.
My name is Nell and I’m an 18-year-old dabbling creative from rural Norfolk. Currently, I’m on a gap year before I accept my deferred place at Sussex University to study Theatre and Performance in September 2021. Like many young people who chose to have a gap year right now, it’s not exactly turned out how I expected. I could dwell on the negatives of this situation but instead I’m going to discuss my digital internship with Momentum World.
As I mentioned before at my core, I’m a creative, which has always been the main focus of my time and energy. As I’ve grown my responsibility and independence within organisations has obviously increased, until this year I was still always a participant, not an administrator.
But now, along with other more demanding roles, I’m the Social Media and Web Intern for Momentum World! This includes managing their online presence and attracting new recognition.
I’m so grateful to be able to represent something with a message that I’m proud of, which encourages international opportunities for young people. Also, since studying immigrant experience literature I’ve wanted to widen my perspective and explore the intercultural concepts that Momentum World promotes. I’m looking forward to having an experience to learn, grow as an individual, and help a worthwhile non-profit organisation. Over the next few months, I intend to establish new connections for the organisation, attract new participants for the future, and develop my professionalism alongside experts.
I won’t lie despite my enthusiasm I do lack confidence more than ever before. Although as a creative in this day and age I’m well versed in the art of self-promotion, I worry that I’m not supposed to be doing this. However, instead of reciting my insecurities of imposter syndrome, I’m going to leave you with some advice that helped me with this concern.
Recently a friend’s parent said to me: ‘No one knows what they’re doing, even if they don’t admit it. Everyone is just as insecure and worried as us. All you have to do is remember to keep going, ask those ‘silly’ questions, smile, and be honest. Then you’ll realise you deserve to be where you are.’
2020 has been a challenging time for all of us. Looking back at the past months we can say, with confidence that we have adapted well to this new reality of delivering activities online, and reaching out to other young people using various digital tools.
Ana and Nathan, two EuroPeers UK had an idea to run an online event that would feature EuroPeers from all across the international network, and this plan was realised last week at our inaugural EuroPeerathon.
With the help of our digital team, we managed to keep the three days flowing seamlessly, and shared sessions presented by EuroPeers. EuroPeerathon acted as a good promotion for the individual accomplishments of young people whose lives have been changed forever by the Erasmus Plus programme.
We got to hear from NA representatives, working to engage more young people in international programmes, we heard from representatives of not for profits, trainers, and EuroPeers themselves. We hope to bring similar events to our audiences in near future.
This has been a momentous year in so many ways, of uncertainty, restrictions, and self-isolation. However as once said, in chaos there are opportunities and I have constantly conditioned myself to see opportunities and positivity in the midst of uncertainty. Moreover, I think young people at this time have considered ‘what is next’, employment, education, and how to cope within the new normal. This has certainly been my year’s story of working from home, university turning into virtual education, and how to develop myself within this new normal.
My experience has been immersing in online courses, projects that I kept pushing back, and more travelling! Though people may say is it safe, as for me I’ve thoroughly enjoyed travelling and meeting like-minded people that are even more positive in the midst of the new normal. This continues to motivate me to push boundaries and exchange ideas, experiences from all over. My theme is always “travel, explore and grasp all the opportunities” – and be part of the generation that reacted with solutions.
A big part of my project involved running a winter cafe (known as the Mono Cafe) alongside another EVS volunteer. We served an array of food and drinks and it gave us a great opportunity to get to know some of the locals whilst also practising some of our Finnish language skills. I really enjoyed the responsibility that we were entrusted with and judging by the positive feedback we received from our customers, it was a great success. I was able to show my creative side by making suggestions on new things we could include on the menu and also ways we could attract a greater number of new customers. I took real pride in running the cafe and I learnt a lot from the experience, including that I am capable of managing a project if it is something I am passionate about and really believe in.
Another part of my project involved visiting some of the local schools to talk to the children about my own culture, which was extremely fascinating as it led to some interesting discussions about our cultural differences as well as our similarities. I was intrigued by how much the children already knew about British culture and how eager they were to learn more, which was evident from the number of questions they had for me. I was equally fascinated to know more about their culture, particularly their school life, and how it differed to my time in school.
Throughout my EVS project I was able to confidently communicate in my mother tongue as I knew that the majority of the people I was speaking with had a good level of English. Occasionally I would meet someone who struggled slightly with their English, but I feel I was able to be patient with them and even help them improve their English language capabilities.
During my time in Finland, I attended some Finnish language lessons which I thoroughly enjoyed, however, whilst I did learn some basic words and sentences, it was very difficult for me to gain enough vocabulary and understanding of the language in order to be able to regularly join in with conversations. Towards the end of my project, there were instances where I pleasantly surprised myself as I was able, to some extent, follow a Finnish conversation going on around me even though I couldn’t contribute to the conversation.
Hello, I am Jessica. I grew up in the south of Wales, in a small valley but later moved to Cornwall for college. I have always wanted to live as close to nature as possible.
This EVS project is in a small animal rescue park, in the middle of the countryside Italy but 1.5 hours outside Rome. In this Park, they rescue local wildlife like sparrows, hawks, foxes, and deer. They also take rescued exotic animals like capuchins, macaques, birds, and wild pigs.
I arrived here at the end of June and I am living in a small cottage next to the park. I live with another EVS, Laura from Spain. So far we have both been enjoying the Italian diet, the beautiful scenery, and wonderful animals. I was very excited to come. I had always wanted to visit Italy because of its beautiful countryside and artistic cities. Before coming here, I have previously volunteered in animal rescue parks during my days off at college. Since that experience, I am confident I want to have a career with animals.
This EVS placement is the perfect opportunity to expand my experience and gain more knowledge in the industry. Because I had worked in animal parks before, I knew what the general day to day activities were. I was expecting to spend a lot of time cleaning, chopping food, and taking care of the animal. I do all of these things daily but also more. I get to spend time learning the primates’ behaviours, learn about the correct diets for each species, and learn the process for rehabilitating wild animals. It’s hard work but I have adapted easily into the environment, thanks to the people working with me. The team here is incredible, everyone is always ready to help you with anything you need, they are here to support you on a bad day and the atmosphere feels like a big family from all over Europe.
I am learning about new cultures, new languages, and becoming more confident in myself and in my skills.
I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the last of the summer after probably the weirdest, not so wonderful summer of our lives! I have been in Tallinn for three weeks now and the transition from the UK to here has felt like a big step away from Coronavirus (fingers crossed) whilst taking a giant step towards readjustment to a new culture! The initial shock of no longer wearing masks, limited socialising and virtually no social distancing has taken a while to sink in. Sauna-ing with work colleagues, navigating different social cues, and getting lost in supermarket aisles are all part and parcel of settling in, a familiar feeling that I am sure many EuroPeers can share from when they began their European Solidarity Corps or Erasmus+ projects.
But in the EuroPeers international world, digital activities and developments soldier on. Here are just a few…the EuroPeers Steering Group has been selected! We had such a high quality of applications from extremely dedicated and passionate young people around Europe. There was even interest from Serbia and Albania which demonstrated the vast interest in the Network and space for growth. There will be EuroPeers Youth representatives from the UK, Finland, Italy, Austria, and Serbia! We’re sending out the message “participation before borders” and motivation really matters. Keep your eyes peeled for an introduction to this team on the EuroPeers International Facebook Page and Instagram!
We’re also looking for EuroPeers with a passion for photography who would want to help with our Instagram launch! It is an opportunity to have a one-to-one workshop and photoshoot with Facetime extraordinaire Tim Dunk. Check out his work here. The project will promote the strong unity and togetherness of EuroPeers in the face of Covid-19 and serve to engage newcomers to our community who might never have even heard of EU Youth projects! You’ll learn some great new photography skills that you can harness for future projects, especially in the Corona digital era. The only requirement (unfortunately) is that you have an iPhone or can borrow one from a family member/close friend for the shoots you will learn to do!
Please email the European Network Coordinator ASAP at Emily.Keal@archimedes.ee if you would like to be involved!
It is fair to say 2020 took many of us by surprise. Much has happened in a matter of months, which has toyed with our emotions like ping pong, and shaped our behaviour (through fear-mongering, hope, education, or a new law passing). If you are reading this then you have lived through some major incidents, which will be studied in years to come.
In particular, the pandemic and the consequences of a lockdown (on economics, social, political, environmental, health, etc) has affected everyone (in different degrees of severity). We have been challenged with adapting to new ways of coping in our individualised situations, including but not limited to social distancing, good hand hygiene, face masks, and working/studying from home, and for numerous households living with little means.During all of the constant changes and uncertainty of the future, it is important to take care of one’s well being. A change of scenario usually helps me. As a result, I recently agreed to drive to St Andrew’s from London to help a fellow Londoner move out of her flat. During my stay, I made a last-minute decision to meet with a fellow EuroPeer in Glasgow, whom Olga put me in touch with. Edyta and I met for the first time and we clicked straight away. The hours flew by and our conversations gained depth almost immediately. It was exactly what I needed-a talk with a fellow EuroPeer to get me excited with all the possibilities. I wonder what’s next?
2020 is far from over, and although the restrictions of lockdown have eased in many places, CoronaVirus is still taking lives. I wish you good health and many positive experiences in the coming months. We have been through an awful lot, so wrap your limbs around your body and give yourself a warm hug for all the things you’ve encountered. A really big well done to you for your resilience (and attempting the hug)!
It has been almost 20 days since I left England. In the blink of an eye, I’m back in Greece. I feel good. The house looks more colorful, people look happier, even the food tastes better. Nothing changed at all here in Greece, only the pandemic arrived and it’s obviously quite a big deal. I feel so grateful for choosing to spend a full year abroad. Volunteering for twelve months in two EVS projects is the greatest gift that I’ve made to myself, after buying my first camera.
As a teacher and an amateur photographer, in just 12 months I got new experiences across both of my interests, I met people that made me feel motivated to start learning four languages at the same time. I have plenty of people around the world to share moments with and… everything in the most uncertain times looks so balanced. I have so many memories that I can recall, so many smiling faces, songs in Spanish, Romanian, Italian, Lithuanian… an Austrian “swan” to share our interest in photography, places, colors, emotions… all of these captured in a few words and many many MANY photos and videos. The technique in photography is not something that I know a lot about, though the natural beauty is more than enough to show you the world in our ‘’eyes”. With our team, “The Keswick squad”, we travelled around and captured the magic of the Lake District, while volunteering for our EVS, hosted by Momentum World.
This small gallery is just a sample of our time together as a team. We are in the process of gathering more photos which will be featured in a small book, full of memories. Feel free to have a look and if there is this ‘’small voice’’ inside your head that tells you to try a similar experience, giving it a try is a good idea.
Click here for more beautiful photos of the Lake District.